'Horrible' detail emerges as Peru's coronavirus deaths soar past 20,000

Tom Flanagan
·News Reporter
·3-min read

Coronavirus-hit Peru is experiencing a concerning surge in infections as the nation’s health system struggles to cope with the influx.

The nation’s coronavirus death toll topped 20,000 last Thursday yet there are fears that figure could double due to deaths only being counted if the victim had a coronavirus test before dying.

There are more than 27,000 uncounted deaths now under investigation as to whether they are coronavirus-related, Peruvian authorities say.

As Peru began to ease its restrictions at the beginning of July, it has seen an uptick of cases which have now skyrocketed in August, with daily cases routinely surpassing 7000.

Relatives of COVID-19 patients queue to recharge oxygen cylinders. Source: AFP
Relatives of COVID-19 patients queue to recharge oxygen cylinders. Source: AFP

The nation, with a population of 33 million, now has 471,000 confirmed cases, the second highest in South America and the seventh highest globally.

As hospitals struggled to deal with the surge in patients at the start of the pandemic, a nationwide shortage of oxygen in May left families fighting to get their hands on the commodity for infected relatives at home.

As the nation’s second wave begins to take hold, the shortage continues as authorities try and supply oxygen to those in desperate need.

The Association of Municipalities of Peru (AMPE) and the Peruvian army began providing limited free oxygen to poverty-stricken areas from July via its mobile oxygen plant.

Tragic story behind eerie photos from Lima

Photos from its capital Lima shows dozens of people queuing for hours on end with large oxygen tanks after running out.

Peru has seen a surge in cases over the last two weeks. Source: Worldometers
Peru has seen a surge in cases over the last two weeks. Source: Worldometers

“It is difficult to see people cry and claim and beg for oxygen,” Marco Antonio Pitor told AFP after spending a full day in search of oxygen.

Some families queue all night through winter and those who aren’t lucky enough to acquire free oxygen are left to fork out up to $70 for a tank.

Jennifer García said she can’t get enough for her infected father who uses multiple tanks daily.

“Getting oxygen is horrible because they ask too high for prices,” she said.

AMPE Head and La Molina Mayor Alvaro Paz de la Barra said getting oxygen to family members was a matter of life and death, local news agency Andina reported.

Relatives of COVID-19 patients move oxygen cylinders as they queue to recharge them in Villa Maria del Triunfo, in the southern outskirts of Lima last week.
Relatives of COVID-19 patients move oxygen cylinders as they queue to recharge them in Villa Maria del Triunfo, in the southern outskirts of Lima last week. Source: AFP

"We have seen what many compatriots have to go through to get oxygen, and that — unfortunately — they even die due to the lack of its supply,” he said.

“This cannot keep on happening.”

Mr Paz de la Barra announced a partnership with the Science and Technology Research Centre of the National Engineering University would allow the AMPE to increase oxygen production up to five times its current output in two weeks, however recent complications had hampered production.

In June, the government attempted to crack down on those cashing in on oxygen supplies, yet it had done little to ease the worries of families forced to care for relatives at home.

The extent of the crisis in the nation’s health system was seen last week when bodies were seen outside hospitals in the regional cities of Cusco and Cajamarca where the outbreak has extended beyond Lima.

Relatives of COVID-19 victims have said cemeteries in the north of Peru have no room for their dead.

Peru has extended its state of emergency to the end of August and broadened a quarantine to cover more than half of the country's regions as cases continue to soar.

Authorities are now looking to relocate medics to at-risk areas so as to reinforce fragile hospitals outside of the capital.

with AFP and Reuters

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